A bit on backup

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Reader Anthony Burokas has backup concerns. He writes:

How do I recover when my main office machine’s hard drive just craps out? Working… slows to a crawl… reboot just won’t.

In OS 9 days, I could easily drag and drop my entire HD to an external drive and boot from that and keep going—apps, docs and all. In OS X it’s much more difficult. I’ve added a dedicated NAS (network-attached storage drive) that came with Retrospect, but haven’t got all my machines set up with that yet.

How do I set things up so that if a computer crashes, I can most quickly get back up and running—same apps, same mail, calendar, etc.—on a different or new machine?

You have a couple of options. To most quickly get back up and running, create a mirrored RAID array—a scheme involving two or more hard drives where your data is duplicated on each member of the RAID. Should one hard drive go south, you have a working (and bootable) copy of all your data on the other drive, which you can access almost immediately. You use Apple’s Disk Utility (/Applications/Utilities) to create a RAID. Apple’s Help will tell you how.

Note that you have to build a RAID from the ground up—meaning that you’ll first format your drives (thus wiping the data off them), create the RAID, and then install OS X, your applications, and restore any data you’ve backed up.

Mirrored RAIDs are great, but they’re not always practical. When you use a laptop away from home, for example, it’s silly to carry an external hard drive to act as the other half of the RAID. And you’ll be less than tickled when your backup is part of the RAID if you can’t access your data because your Mac died for reasons other than hard drive failure. Extracting drives from certain Mac models is no fun. You’ll find it far easier to simply move a bootable external hard drive, which contains your data, to another Mac.

So, when a RAID won’t do, grab a backup utility that can create a bootable backup.

Shirt Pocket Software’s $28 SuperDuper is one such utility. SuperDuper has received back-to-back Eddy awards from Macworld for good reason. It’s very easy to use, includes a scheduling feature, and it can back up to disk images as well as other volumes.

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